Do your feet hurt from wearing heels? Here’s how to strengthen them without giving up your professional look.
“I’m a teacher, so I’m on my feet all day, usually in high heels or flats. I’m also a marathoner, but only after taking a summer off from high heels (wearing mostly birkenstocks or sneakers) did I realize how much my legs and feet ache at the end of the work day. Do you have any tips or suggestions for professional-looking “work shoes” that won’t kill my feet? I have a 6-mile run to do tonight, and my toes are killing me! Thanks so much. ~Mal”
Hi, Mal. You’re wise to wear your high heels sparingly, especially while you’re in training for a marathon. Although they look great, they suck the life out of your legs and cause major issues with your feet, as well as your body alignment.
Yup, High Heels Are Horrible for Your Feet
New 3D scanner offers visual proof of foot damage caused by stilettos.
Researchers have warned of the damage high heels can have on the feet and ankles–and of the pain that damage can lead to while running. Now, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in the U.K. offers visual proof of stilettos’ indisputable ravages, and in 3D.
Using new 3D scanner technology, orthopedic surgeons and other specialists have created an animated video showing the weight and stress stilettos place on the bones of the forefoot. The new technology will serve as a diagnostic tool, enabling doctors to better pinpoint the source of pain in patients’ feet.
Orthopaedic surgeon Andy Goldberg walks viewers through the insights the technology is revealing in the video below.
The body is designed to function with our weight balanced over the heels (vertical alignment). That is, when standing in alignment, you could draw a straight line from your ankles to the top of your head. Every section of the body is aligned to maximize support for the weight of your upper body over the hips and the entire body over the heel bones.
When we wear positive heels (any increase in height in the heel), it shifts our weight forward and onto the smaller muscles in our feet and toes. These little guys go from supporting the arch of the foot to the entire weight of the body (not good). This can cause plantar fasciitis, toe pain, and even nerve damage. This is especially risky when we squeeze our feet into pointed, high-heeled shoes for long period of time. And if that isn’t enough to reconsider your work-shoe options, wearing higher-heeled shoes shortens the calf muscles and affects the range of motion in the surrounding joints (knee and ankle).
The fix starts by being aware of the damage shoes can have on your posture and performance. From the sound of it, after taking a break from heels you now realize the amount of pain they cause in your every day life. It’s important to now build and maintain foot, ankle, and core strength and mobility to counteract any deficits caused by your footwear or work posture. Foam rolling, yoga, and total-body strengthening go a long way in keeping the body moving in healthy alignment, which transfers to good form on the roads.
Also helpful is to fill your work day with healthy options for your feet. For example, wearing your Birkenstocks in the morning—and even going barefoot around the house—can develop foot strength and mobility, as can commuting to and from work in shoes that support your feet (Birks, Crocs or running shoes). Stowing a foam roller at school and rolling out at least once during the day and before your runs can also help. Overall, limit the amount of time you spend in shoes that cause foot pain.
When looking for good shoes for standing, it’s important to focus on the four main parts of the shoe: the sole, the toe box, the upper, and the heel. Simply put, the sole shouldn’t be too rigid or stiff, the toe box should provide enough room for all five toes to move around, the upper should support but not constrict, and the heel should be low to the ground. If you’re reading this column and have found a comfy, supportive pair of standing shoes — please share!
There comes a time in a girl’s life when support and function rule out over fashion. It may not happen 100% of the time, but making small changes can make a significant impact in preventing long-term foot and postural problems down the road. Perhaps someday there will be a fashionable, healthy shoe option for even the dressiest of occasions. (A girl can dream!)